Deck Still Stacked Against Wigan in Survival Bid
If Wigan Athletic endure relegation from League One to the bottom tier of the EFL at the end of this season, and let’s face it there is a distinct possibility of that happening, then there will be a curious if not sad sense of symmetry to us dropping through the divisions.
An unlikely and meteoric rise from what is now League Two (then Division Three), when promoted as champions in 1996-97 thanks to the goals of Graeme Jones, to the Premier League took eight years. The Latics then spent as many seasons in the top flight of English football, defying the odds time and again when managing to stay up.
Latic’s greatest day, a monumental 2013 FA Cup final upset over the mighty Manchester City on the hallowed turf of Wembley, proved bittersweet. There was no time to savour our mother of all giant-killings, as relegation finally caught up with us just a few days later.
Some eight years on, all the progress made in the late 1990s and early 2000s has virtually been undone. Latics are battling consecutive relegations with no prospect whatsoever of yo-yoing between League One and the Championship as we did between 2015 and 2018.
Leam Richardson has spent all but two months of the season in caretaker charge following a fire sale of players over the summer. Wigan fans could be forgiven for looking ruefully at South Wales pair Cardiff City and Swansea City where their top two scorers from last season, Wales frontman Kieffer Moore and fellow forward Jamal Lowe, have both done well in the EFL Championship.
The pair raised less than £3,000,000 between them if reported bargain basement fees are to be believed, so it’s clear that the buyers got the better of such deals. USA left back Antonee Robinson previously interested the rejuvenated AC Milan in Italy, but ended up moving to Fulham – again for a cut price.
Since July 2020, 35 first-team and reserve players have left the DW Stadium. Even when John Sheridan came in as a permanent managerial appointment in September, he was deemed a saleable asset and moved to League One rivals Swindon Town, who are scarcely doing any better, before the autumn was out.
Amidst all these departures and trying to balance the books, Wigan have only been allowed to deal in loans and free transfers. It’s little wonder that this current plight has been compounded, then, and Latics are long odds-on favourites in the latest football betting for another relegation.
They say it’s not the fall that kills you but the landing. Dropping into League Two hardly makes Wigan the only former Premier League club to reach this nadir. This season alone, three teams who had previously dined at the top table of English football – Oldham Athletic, Bradford City and Bolton Wanderers – competed in the fourth tier.
Past Latics teams have pulled off great escapes at a much higher level. The current side moved off the bottom of League One with 13 games of the season left with a 3-0 win over MK Dons, but Wigan still have so much to do if they want to stave off the drop.
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